NCAA Men: Jo Lual-Acuil Jr and Baylor remain unbeaten

Baylor continued their unbeaten run into the New Year, improving to a perfect 14-0 record and rising to the number 2 in the national rankings. One of the reasons behind the rapid rise of the Bears is the impressive play of Australian big man Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. He leads a host of Aussies who have had a big week in college hoops.

In their last two wins, Lual-Acuil Jr has maintained his consistency and dominance in the paint. He added 12 points and 8 rebounds in the Bears' 76-50 demolition of Oklahoma in their Big 12 conference opening game. While Lual-Acuil Jr was very good, notably it was his first game of the season that he went without registering a blocked shot. The junior center would again deliver big time in a thrilling 65-63 victory over Iowa State. Baylor were playing with their highest ever national ranking and would escape with a 2-point win, with the Aussie delivering big-time with 15 points, 8 rebounds and 1 block in 24 minutes as he battled foul trouble.

Lual-Acuil was recognised for his big performances by being named the Big 12 Conference Men’s Basketball Newcomer of the Week. His current season average of 3.6 blocks per game ranks third nationally (behind fellow Aussie Liam Thomas at #1), with the 7-footer on track to break Brian Skinner’s Baylor single-season record of 3.83 blocks per game. With a win over Oklahoma State this weekend, the Bears are likely to emerge next week as the number 1 ranked team in the country.

Saint Mary's continued on their winning ways, extend their winning streak to 7 behind the outstanding play of their Aussie center, Meburnian Jock Landale. Landale has been outstanding in his own right, with three more big performance as he maintained his run of scoring in double figures in each game this season. In the No. 19 ranked Gaels' 72-60 win over Loyola Marymount, Landale gathered an 18 point and 11 rebound double-double with 2 blocked shots. He has great support from point guard Emmett Naar who lead the Gaels with 19 points and 5 assists, while Dane Pineau added 9 points and 8 rebounds in coming off the bench.

Landale was again very good in compiling 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting with 9 rebounds and 2 assists in just 21 minutes as Saint Mary's recorded a 72-60 victory over San Diego. While Naar (9 points and 6 assists) and Pineau (9 points, 6 rebounds and 2 blocks) were again prominent, the play of freshman Tanner Krebs captured everyone's attention. Krebs came off the bench to land 4-of-4 three-pointers in 18 minutes to finish with a new career-high of 12 points to once again highlight that the Aussie talent at Saint Mary's runs deep.

In a battle featuring two of the best big men in the West Coast Conference, the Gaels prevailed over Brigham Young 81-68. Landale was exceptional and a model of efficiency, with the Gaels running their offense through him as he went 11-of-13 from the field to rack up a team-high 26 points with 9 rebounds and 6 assists. While Landale was unstoppable, Naar was just as impressive in landing 17 points (3-of-4 3PT) with 4 rebounds and 4 assists. With the win, Saint Mary's ensured a 3-0 start to conference play.

Since Christmas, Chima Moneke has registered three straight double-doubles that has coincided with three straight UC Davis wins. Moneke has been terrific for the Aggies, kick-starting their streak with a game-high 22 points and 12 rebounds outing in a 72-65 win against Seattle. He also had 3 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks in an all-round display. UC Davis started on an 11-3 run and were never headed.

In their final non-conference game, the Aggies fired their way past Utah Valley to win 83-69. Moneke connected on 5-of-10 shooting to provide 12 points with 12 rebounds in 28 minutes. The 6'6 swingman was even better against UC Santa Barbara, connecting on an efficient 6-of-9 from the field for 15 points, 10 rebounds and 2 blocked shots. He was integral in driving the Aggies to a big lead that ballooned to as many as 34, before easing to a 73-47 victory. In providing 14.9 points and 8.4 rebounds per game, Moneke has been one of the standout Aussies so far this season.

Like Moneke, Duop Reath has had a breakout year with LSU. Over the Tiger's last two games which included a loss to Vanberbilt (89-96) and a win over Missouri (88-77), Reath's scoring dried up a fraction. While he only had 5 points and 2 rebounds against the Commodores in a rare quiet game, he still managed 9 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 blocks before fouling out to play an integral role in the win against Missouri. Despite the quieter games, he is still having a massive season for LSU, being been good for 13.8 points and 5.7 rebounds per game.

Winthrop has opened big South Conference play with a 2-1 record behind the play of dynamic forward Xavier Cooks. Cooks delivered a 13 point and 11 rebound double-double in the Eagles' 84-68 win against Charleston Southern. He was a dominant force at both ends of the court, also delivered 6 assists and 4 blocked shots. While he would back up to contribute 17 points (7-of-9 FG) with 2 rebounds, 2 steals and 4 blocks against Radford, he was unable to get Winthrop over the line as they just fell short 80-82.

The Eagles would bounce back to account for Highpoint 80-74, with Cooks again in fine form as he recorded his fourth double-double of the season. The 6'8 junior compiled 21 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal in another commanding performance. He lifted his season output to 16.3 points and 7.1 rebounds per game, as Winthrop improved to 10-4 this season.

Jack Purchase is clearly enjoying Island life and his starting role at Hawaii. The 6'8 sharpshooting forward has been in fine form, delivering some great performances since Christmas. In a 60-46 win against Southern Mississippi to finish 7th at the Diamond Head Classic, Purchase contributed 17 points that included 5-of-10 from beyond the arc, alongside 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals and 1 block to help end the Raindbow Warriors' 4-game losing streak. He would back up that big performance with another, again firing in 5 three-pointers on his way to matching his career-high of 21 points in a 77-66 win against Delaware State. He would also chip in 8 rebounds and 2 assists to round out another fine performance.

Hawaii's 2-game winning streak came to an end thanks to a narrow 64-67 loss to Cal State Fullerton in their Big West Conference opener. Purchase was again solid with 9 points (3-of-5 FG) with 6 rebounds and 3 assists. Hawaii now has a 6-8 overall record and 1-0 to open conference play, with their Aussie forward adding 10.6 points and 4.6 rebounds per game.

With two big performances over the past week, Felix Von Hofe helped Eastern Washington record two straight wins. Von Hofe exploded for his first 20-point outing since November last year, compiling 22 points that included 6 three-pointers with 2 rebounds and 2 steals in the Eagles' 69-62 win against Idaho. Big man Mason Peatling added 7 points (2-of-3 FG) with 9 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 blocks, as the Eagles halted their 3 game losing streak.

The Eagles would make it 2 wins in a row to open Big Sky Conference play when they overran Montana State 82-64 in their next fixture. This time Von Hofe would connect on 5 triples on his way to logging 19 points and 2 rebounds in another fine shooting display. Fellow Aussie Jesse Hunt came off the bench to add 13 points and 7 rebounds as the Eagles rode their strong first half showing to a commanding 18 point win. Von Hofe's shooting has been vital to the Eagles' success, with the 6'5 small forward delivering 14.4 points per game.

In a highly competitive ACC, #9 ranked Louisville has taken on four nationally ranked opponents in as many games in a tough schedule. Following their impressive win against #6 Kentucky prior to Christmas, their last three contests have been a loss to #12 Virginia (53-61), a win against #16 Indiana (77-62), and a loss versus #23 Notre Dame (70-77).

Against the Cavaliers, 6'7 second year forward Deng Adel was restricted to 8 points and 2 rebounds in their 8 point loss. He stepped up against the Hoosiers however, delivering an impressive performance that included 17 points on 5-of-10 shooting that included 3 triples. He also chimed in with 4 rebounds and 4 assists to remind everyone of what he is capable of. On the road at Notre Dame, the Cardinals received 10 points (4-of-13 FG), 4 rebounds and 2 assists from Adel but it was not enough to prevent a 7 point loss.

Fellow Aussie Mangok Mathiang's contributions have dried up over recent weeks, and perhaps is it no coincidence that the Cardinals have dropped a few games without they captain firing. After a great non-conference schedule, Louisville suddenly find themselves with an 0-2 record to open ACC play and with plenty of work to do.

Jamaal Robateau continued his emergence for Gardner-Webb, averaging 14.7 points across his last 4 outings. The 6'5 junior guard compiled 12 points, including 4 three-pointers, in the Bulldogs' 64-71 loss to High Point. He followed up with a big-time performance in a heart-breaking 85-90 overtime loss to UNC-Asheville. Robateau drained one of his 4 three-pointers for the game with just 2 seconds left in regulation to force extra time. He would finish with 16 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists in what proved to be a tough loss.

The hot-shooting from long-range continued for Robateau in Gardner-Webb's 70-59 win against Radford. This time he would connect on 3-of-6 triples in registering 14 points with 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 steals. After a narrow loss, it was a good win to ensure the Bulldogs notched their first conference win (1-2).

6'6 junior transfer Sam McDaniel is having a very good season with Louisiana-Monroe. In his best performance since Christmas, McDaniel gathered 20 points (7-of-21 FG) with 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals as the Warhawks lost to Little Rock 75-79 in overtime. It was McDaniel that hit the game-tying three-pointer with 39 seconds left that would ultimately send the contest into extra time. However the Trojans finished stronger, coming from behind to take the victory.

Freshman guard Dejan Vasiljevic had a hot-shooting night in Miami's 55-70 loss to Syracuse. The sweet-shooting Melburnian connected on 6-of-12 three-pointers to register a new career-best 18 points in 28 minutes. The loss halted the Hurricane's winning streak at 7, ahead of their next contest against #23 ranked Notre Dame.

Matt McCarthy has entrenched himself in the starting line-up at San Francisco, with the 6'9 forward playing consistently well. In his best performance over the last week, he provided a 10 point and 10 rebound double-double in a 58-72 loss to Santa Clara. He then had 7 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists in a 80-95 loss to #5 ranked Gonzaga. The Dons have opened WCC play with a 1-2 record ahead of their next game against the #19 ranked Saint Mary's.

With a career-high 24 points, Bosko Kostur led Bryant to a thrilling 72-71 come-from-behind win over Mount St Mary's. Kostur was brilliant, going 8-of-13 from the field while also gathering 4 rebounds and 3 assists. Bryant are now 1-2 to open Northeast Conference play.

Also scoring a career-high was Kai Healy who helped power Santa Clara past Portland 70-42. Healy was brought on early to replaced starter Matt Hauser who was hurt 2 minutes into the game, and he grasped the opportunity with both hands. The 6'5 guard was on fire, draining 5-of-6 from beyond the arc (7-of-8 FG) in scoring 19 points with 7 rebounds and 3 assists across 34 minutes. The Broncos are now 2-1 in the WCC and next face Loyola Marymount.